Monday, December 31, 2012

Old Before My Time: Hayley Okines' Life with Progeria

Title: Old Before My Time: Hayley Okines' Life with Progeria
Authors: Hayley and Kerry Okines
I received this book for free from because it was one of their free Kindle books offered at the time that I received it. I am not required to post this review in exchange for this book. I am simply reviewing it for your benefit.
Old Before My Time is a book written by Hayley Okines and her mother, Kerry, about Hayley's life with progeria. Progeria is a rare genetic condition that produces rapid aging in children. Children with progeria age, on average, about 8 times faster than someone without the disease. This results in the the person experiencing many of the same health problems that the elderly have and most of these children die before the age of 13 from heart disease or a stroke.

I learned in dental hygiene school that children with progeria have under-developed mandibles. This results in a bird-like or beak-like appearance. Due to the small size of the mandible they have dental crowding and hypodontia (fewer than normal number of teeth). Children with progeria also experience alopecia (hair loss).
Hayley and her mother wrote this book when she was 13 years old. It is interesting to see the difference in the writing "voice" between the chapters as Kerry writers some and Hayley writes others. In many instances Kerry may have written a chapter talking about her perspective of something, for example, Hayley meeting Steve Erwin, and then in the following chapter Hayley writes it from her perspective.
Hayley's cheerful spirit and positive attitude shine through in every chapter that she wrote. She does not see progeria as something that holds her back, but rather as something that has given her many opportunities that she would have otherwise not had such as meeting Steve Erwin, Kylie Minogue, and Justin Beiber.
Hayley is doing a drug trial to try and slow her aging process. She has seen positive results from this and these are also covered in the book.
This book is not a highly scientific read, but more of an emotionally gripping autobiography written by a girl with a 13 year old mind and a 100 year old body.
I highly recommend it!

Book Review: An Amish Kitchen

An Amish Kitchen 
Title: An Amish Kitchen
Authors: Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Kelly Long

The Amish Kitchen is three stories in one book: A Taste of Faith by Kelly Long, A Spoonful of Love by Amy Clipston and A Recipe for Hope by Beth Wiseman.

In A Taste of Faith Fern provides healing for others through medicinal herbs. She is insecure about her size. Good-looking, strong, and kind Abram wanted to be married to the land, not a woman. While caring for his younger siblings while his parents were out of town, he had to make frequent use of Fern's healing herbs due to various mishaps. And of course, they fell in love, but not without some conflict.

In A Spoonful of Love Hannah runs her parents bed & breakfast after her Daed's stroke. Stephen Ash is running from his past and finds refuge in Paradise. He makes himself useful at the bed & breakfast while staying there and he and Hannah become friends... and more.

In A Recipe for Hope, Eve and her husband and boys have to live with Eve's parents for a few months while repairs are being made on their house. Eve and her mother, who have never gotten along, build a relationship. Eve discovers that her mother does love her after all.

I enjoyed all three of the books. The first two were romances while the last was relationship-driven. My only complaint is that the characters fell in love too quickly. I guess that is due to the fact that each of the books is relatively short, but it was literally almost love at first sight in these books.

The cool thing is that the book contains recipes! There are recipes for natural remedies and there are also recipes of many of the dishes that the characters made in the book. I'd like to try a few of them out sometime!

The overall message was inspiring, but I wouldn't say that it was extremely spiritual.

*I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers through their BookSneeze program in exchange for an honest review*
I review for BookSneeze®

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review: Grace

I review for BookSneeze®

Title: Grace
Author: Max Lucado

The back cover of Grace by Max Lucado reads, “Have we settled for wimpy grace?” Then it states, “Max Lucado asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped…? Strengthened…? Emboldened…? Softened…? Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace?”

I had great hopes for this book. I had hoped that Pastor Lucado would truly explore the life-changing, sanctifying power of God’s grace. I had hoped that this book would tell of the grace that goes beyond the wimpy grace that doesn’t threaten the way we currently live our lives and instead call us to repentance and challenge us to live obedient and holy lives because of what God has done for us. Had that been the only thing I had begun this book hoping for, I would have been greatly disappointed.

I also opened this book hoping for an easy read, good stories, and viewing bible stories in a new, fresh light. Those hopes were not disappointed.

For the first time, I saw that the story of the release of Barabbas by Pontius Pilate, well, really the Jews, was not just a release, but rather an exchange. Never before had I viewed that part of the story in light of my own salvation. I am Barabbas… the guilty one. Like Barabbas I have received the pardon I did not deserve while Jesus bore the punishment of death that I fully deserved. (Chapter 3)

I saw that the story of Ruth is the story of a God who offers grace though He is under no obligation to. I saw that in the story of Ruth is the story of a God who saves us even when we are in the depths of our sin. (Chapter 6)

Lucado, in chapter 10, assures us of our worth, not because of who we are, but because God has chosen us to be His children. “Rather than conjure up reasons to feel good about yourself, trust God’s verdict. If God loves you, you must be worth loving. If he wants to have you in his kingdom, then you must be worth having. God’s grace invites you – no, requires you – to change your attitude about yourself and take sides with God against your feelings of rejection.”

While the book disappointed many of my hopes, it also offered some positives things to me.

He did not disappoint with the quality and readability of his writing. The book was true to Max Lucado's voice and was written in a style that could easily be read aloud for a devotional thought.

All of this being said, I fundamentally disagree with Pastor Lucado’s theology regarding our assurance of salvation. Lucado states on page 133, “On-and-off salvation never appears in the Bible. Salvation is not a repeated phenomenon. Scripture contains no example of a person who was saved, then lost, then resaved, then lost again.” This chapter supports the once-saved-always-saved theological perspective. However, I do not believe that the Bible teaches that salvation cannot be lost.

When one chooses to follow Christ, does he then lose his power of choice in this matter? Can he not choose to NOT follow Christ. Would God force someone who once desired Heaven and now no longer desires to be in Heaven with God for all eternity to suffer all eternity in the presence of a God that he/ she wants nothing to do with?

What does the Bible teach? What does Jesus say?

In Luke 8:4-15 Jesus tells the parable of the sower who went out to sow some seed. The seed is the word of God. The seed falls in various places but I want to bring your attention to the seed that fell on the rocky soil. Verse 13 (NASB) says, “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.” Jesus himself states that they believed but fell away!

Jesus tells the parable of the vine and the branches in John 15:1-l7. He stresses the importance of remaining in Him. You cannot remain in something unless you have first joined yourself to it. If it is not possible to be lost, why would Jesus emphasize the importance of remaining in Him? Jesus is teaching that to be saved, one must abide in Him or remain in Him. If we remain in Jesus, we will obey Jesus (v.10).

In the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) all of the young ladies were invited to the wedding, all of them accepted the invitation, and yet some missed out on the opportunity to attend.

Other passages to consider: Ezekiel 33:12-20; Roman 11:17-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1,2; Galatians 1:6; Galatians 5:2-4; Ephesians 4:20 and many others (see

Finally I would like to end with this, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” (Colossians 1:21-23) The passage says if you continue in your faith.

Salvation is a free gift that one can accept, but it must be daily lived and accepted continually. If one chooses that he or she no longer wants to remain in Christ, he/ she has that freedom of choice. No one can snatch us from the Father’s hand (John 10:29), but we can choose to remove ourselves from it.

Please do not accept the wimpy grace that is offered by saying that we can accept salvation once and then never lose it because in doing so you cheat yourself of the rich blessings that come from an living, giving, active, abiding relationship with Jesus and His magnificent power to transform lives.

Book Review: the Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck

Title: The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck
Author: Kathleen Y’Barbo

Charlotte Beck is a childish, self-centered, spoiled rich brat interested only in getting her way. Her looks and her manipulating ways help accomplish that. Alex Hambly is a rich, attractive, astronomer who can stand up to Charlotte’s manipulating and bratty ways. I knew how this story would end before I even finished reading the back cover. Forced marriage, they hate each other, they’ll come to love each other. The end.

I can’t complain about the predictability. I enjoy predictability because my own life is so unpredictable… it’s nice to pick up a book and know how the story is going to end and everything in between.

I liked the book, but it left much to be desired.

Questions still remain such as:

What happened to Charlotte’s mother??? On this point, readers were left with only sketchy details and a confusing story. Did she leave Edwin for Daniel?

Who is Charlotte’s real father?? Edwin or Daniel? The birth certificate said Daniel, but Daniel seemed shocked by this.

This book is classified as Christian fiction, but aside from being clean I fail to see what qualifies it as such. There were two, maybe three, mentions of faith in the whole book – Daniel asking Charlotte about her faith, Daniel addressing it with Alex following that conversation, and Alex asking Charlotte. I’ve seen more about God mentioned in non-Christian fiction.

I enjoyed the setting and the characters were well developed for the most part. If I had not read the acknowledgments at the back of the book, I might have thought that another book would tell the story of Charlotte’s mother; however, this being the last book in the series it doesn’t seem like that will happen.

This book accomplished exactly what I hoped it would… allow me to relax and read while taking some time off work and to get my mind off of more stressful things. That being said this is not a book that I would recommend, nor would I read it again.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook/ Multnomah Publishers in exchange for writing a free review for their Blogging for Books program*

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Book Review: Christmas in Apple Ridge

Title: Christmas in Apple Ridge
Author: Cindy Woodsmall
Review by Amber Hill

Imagine the sound of sleigh bells as we travel to Apple Ridge, PA to meet three Amish couples: Beth and Jonah, Mattie and Gideon, and Sadie and Levi.  Christmas in Apple Ridge, written by Cindy Woodsmall is comprised of 3 novellas with each focusing on the courtship of each couple.

The common thread weaving through each book is one of each character having gone through a difficult and painful experience that has made them harden their hearts to keep love out… But love manages to weave its way into each heart. Though these are three separate books, we see each of the main characters again as minor characters in each of the other books. These books can be read separately or as a series.

In the first book, The Sound of Sleigh Bells, we meet Beth and Lizzy. Lizzy is Beth’s aunt and is 10 years her senior. They Lizzy has resigned herself to a life of singleness and so has Beth, but Lizzy does not want Beth to experience the loneliness of being single forever. Beth is distrustful of men after having been in an abusive relationship and is carrying a heavy burden of guilt. After she finds a carving that inspires her and seems to give her new life, Lizzy does a little meddling and correspondence begins between Beth and Jonah. Love comes with the sound of sleigh bells, but not without its challenges!

The second book, The Christmas Singing, focuses on Mattie and Gideon. Mattie is called Mattie Lane by Gideon and he explains it this way, “A day with her is a journey all by itself – a journey down a one-of-a-kind country road” (pg. 306). Mattie and Gideon grew up together and were very much in love when they were younger. Gideon broke up with her for honorable reasons, but the reason he gave her was not so honorable. Mattie chose the “safe” guy, but it was a relationship of indifference with no passion. He couldn’t break her heart because he had no access to it, as Mattie’s sister-in-law pointed out. Gideon and Mattie work out their differences and realize that love is worth the risk.

The third book, The Dawn of Christmas, introduces us to Sadie and Levi. Sadie had been betrayed by her fiancé and was determined that she would be single rather than being hurt again. Levi believed that he had insight into relationships by his observations of the pain his brother and friend had experienced from a woman and decided that he would never marry. Friendship blossoms into more and as Christmas morning dawns so does their future together.

I really enjoyed this book. It is what I call “fluffy” reading – very little substance, but feel-good and happy. It was completely predictable and you knew who would end up together. When it was revealed that Beth had been in an abusive relationship I could immediately identify with her character and the fear of placing her trust in someone and letting someone into her heart. I liked that the characters lives were interwoven because throughout the three books you met so many people from the community and while main characters from one book were only secondary characters in another, you could still follow their lives. If you like Amish Fiction and feel-good reads, you’ll enjoy this book.

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review from Water Brook/ Mulnomah Publishing Group through their Blogging for Books program.